This is what an artist thinks the Rosetta lander will look like on the comet's surface.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of ESA

Rosetta Lander

Part of the Rosetta spacecraft is a lander that will touch down on the surface of the comet. Since the comet is much smaller than a planet or even a moon, the gravity on the surface is very weak. The engineers who designed the Rosetta lander had to make sure it doesn't bounce (and maybe tip over!) when it lands. The lander will be moving very slowly, about one meter/second (two miles/hour), when it touches down. It will shoot harpoons into the icy surface of the comet when it lands. Cables from the harpoons will help hold the lander down on the surface.

The Rosetta mission was supposed to study a comet named Wirtanen. There were some problems with the rocket that Rosetta will be launched on, so Rosetta's launch had to be delayed. Because of the delay, the mission will now study a different comet. Rosetta will study Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The lander will touch down on the nucleus of Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014. The new comet is much bigger than the old one, so it has more gravity. That means the Rosetta lander will be going faster when it lands. Engineers had to make some changes to the legs of the lander to make sure it has a soft landing on the surface of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Instruments on the lander will measure the types of chemicals found on the surface. The lander also has small drills that will dig into the comet. Samples dug up by the drills will help us find out what is "underground" on a comet. The lander also has cameras that will take pictures from the surface.

Last modified January 8, 2004 by Randy Russell.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Rosetta Mission Update

The Rosetta Mission was suppose to launch in January 2003. Unfortunately, the launch had to be delayed! The Rosetta spacecraft was suppose to be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket. A month ago, another Ariane...more

Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was discovered in 1969 by Klim Churyumov and Svetlana Gerasimenko. The comet orbits the Sun once every 6.57 years. Its orbit brings it closer to the Sun than Mars at the...more

Rosetta lander instruments

The Rosetta lander has many instruments that it will use to make measurements when it lands on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The instruments carried by the lander are described in the table below. The instruments...more

Asteroid Lutetia

Lutetia is a medium-sized asteroid. It orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. Its official name is "21 Lutetia" because it was the 21st asteroid discovered. Lutetia...more

Rosetta Flyby of Asteroid Lutetia

Rosetta is a European space probe. It was launched in 2004. Its main mission is to fly to a comet and land on it. Along the way it has flown by two asteroids. In July 2010 it flew by an asteroid named...more

Comet Hale-Bopp

Hale-Bopp continues to offer new surprises as two astronomers report of their study of the comet. Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the astronomers did a year-long...more

Missions to Halley's comet in 1986

Six spacecraft flew by Halley's comet in 1986. There were two spacecraft launched from Japan, Suisei and Sakigake, and two from the Soviet Union, Vega 1 & 2. One spacecraft, ICE, from the United States...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA